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21 February 2012

Common mistakes #2: “home-made”

The article on the Voice of Russia website about Dmitri Rogozin’s speech concerning the need to “acquire” foreign electronic technology for the Russian defence industry which I discussed in the previous post—see immediately below—did not mention the headline. I left that for a separate post as it has nothing to do with the article, though it should have.
     The station’s web editors headed the piece: “Russia must possess home-made microelectronics – Rogozin”. This will be a source of embarrassment to Rogozin if his English is any good. If not, he will soon be wondering why foreigners are sniggering behind his back again. Is this further proof that the West regards Russia with contempt?
     The point is that in conventional usage “home-made” means something made in the family potting shed, where the garden tools are kept, for “potting out”  the chrysanthemums and tomatoes every spring. During the rest of the year, a half-mad, wannabe inventor comes home from his dreary job in the Ministry of Pensions or the Council Cleansing Department, has a quick tea, and disappears down the path to the rickety shed where he also keeps a soldering iron and a couple of pairs of pliers. Squinting through his bottle-bottomed spectacles, he cobbles together electronic gadgets that he thinks of as prototypes for inventions that will stun the world, make his fortune, and liberate him from his status as a bureaucratic serf. His sad-eyed wife sits alone indoors, patiently watching television, while the children are up in their rooms making other sorts of electronic connections on Facebook.
     The thing to remember is that “home-made” mean деревенский, and then some! The idea that the Russian Minister for Defence Procurement is advocating a sort of potting-shed approach to technology research might seem amusing to the cynics at home, but it will be seen aboard as yet another humiliation for the remnants of a state which sent Gagarin into space and which, according to my Stalin-era English-language textbook, invented the telegraph, the combine harvester, the electric lamp, “the mechanical spinning mill”, the first steam engine “for industrial purposes”, the electric arc, the aeroplane and much else besides.
     If you don’t believe me, click on the image below (to expand it) and read. It comes from Учебник Английского Языка, by Shevaldishev, Suvorov and Kondorf, and was published in Moscow in 1952. (Incidentally, five lines from the bottom of the right-hand page you will see that the phrase “the nearest future”—see post for 9 February—was in use sixty years ago.)

     What the editors at the Voice of Russia should have written was “Russia must possess home-grown microelectronics industry - Rogozin”, or “domestic microelectronics industry” or “its own microelectronics industry”. Even a “home-made microelectronics industry” would not have been so bad, as at least that implied some sort of large-scale programme. But “home-made microelectronics” is a disaster, especially as microelectronics can no more be done with pliers and a soldering iron than brain surgery can be performed using a knife and fork. It kinda makes Rogozin’s point for him: it’s all gone to pot with the bottle-bottomed specs and the blobs of solder. For all the good they are doing, the Voice of Russia implies, Russian scientists might as well be out in the potting shed smoking the pot they’ve hidden from their wives amongst the tomato plants and the chrysanthemums.

1 comment:

  1. I should never have thought that it was not a Russian hwo invented the telegraph, the combine harvester, the electric lamp and all that stuff.